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Campbell Macpherson: thoughts from a change expert and author of the year

6 ways to thrive through ongoing uncertainty
Blog 46 Campbell

Who were we trying to kid before the pandemic? We've always lived in uncertain times! We lulled ourselves into believing that we were in control, and COVID-19 has reminded us that we're not. We never were. We never will be. Life is inherently uncertain.

Sure, we can influence our future, we can make plans, but as Forrest Gump should have said, 'Change happens'. And it will - when we least expect it. Change is one of the few things that we can be certain about. We have no choice but to accept it – good change, bad change, even change that we didn’t ask for. Consequently, our ability to thrive through change and to embrace the inevitable changes that lie ahead – is the key skill that everyone of us needs to hone – at work and in life.

But how? The following tips to accepting and embracing change are lifted from The Power to Change and the ‘Leading Change’ and ‘Embracing Change’ workshops and webinars I run for Henley Business School and organisations worldwide.

  • Acknowledge the inevitability of change – This may sound obvious, but it isn’t. Change isn't a project, nor is it temporary. Even the much-touted post-pandemic ‘new normal’ will be transitory. Change is constant. It's a part of life.
  • Appreciate that all change is emotional – The strong, often negative emotions we experience during times of dramatic change are also inevitable – and entirely normal. We undergo a rollercoaster of emotions as we travel through the 'burning platform change curve' – shock, denial, anger, fear and various forms of hopelessness before we move up the curve towards understanding and acceptance. These emotions are not only OK, they're necessary.
  • Detach and observe – We can overcome so many of our emotional barriers to change through the simple act of observation. Sitting back and observing our negative thoughts and emotions – without any judgment whatsoever – will help us to realise they're not us. They're just thoughts.
  • Attitude is everything – It's easy to feel powerless when big change is done to us. But we're not powerless at all, for we're in control of one crucial factor – how we react to the change, which can make all the difference.
  • Build confidence in your future – Base an assessment of your past experiences and what makes you special – your key strengths and skills. Hope based on empty wishes is hollow. Hope based on the reality of the strengths that lie within you is real.
  • Know that you can be your own change leader – Even in the darkest of moments, you can be your own change catalyst – your own leader of change. You have the power to help yourself. When you find yourself in the trough of the change curve, by all means sympathise and empathise with yourself. Allow yourself to feel sorry for yourself, to acknowledge the fact that this change is not something you asked for and yes, may indeed be completely unfair.

When you can sense that the time is right, look at yourself in the mirror and ask your reflection the magic question that will unlock your future – the question that'll instantly put you in the driver’s seat during even the most disruptive and traumatic change: 'OK, so what am I going to do about it?' The power to change lies within very single one of us.

Who's Campbell Macpherson?
Campbell is a sought-after speaker and international business adviser on leadership, strategy and change who splits his time between Australia and the UK. He's a keynote speaker, Executive Fellow of Henley Business School and author. His first book, The change catalyst (Wiley, 2017), won the 2018 Business Book of the Year in London. His latest book, The power to change (Kogan Page, 2020) has been shortlisted for the 2021 Business Book of the Year awards.

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